I-Team: Attorney Ads Push the Boundaries

LAS VEGAS -- Now that the election is over, ads for attorneys once again fill the air space between your favorite television programs. While it may seem like anything goes, in reality the state bar regulates their content, just not their creativity.

Las Vegas area attorneys routinely challenge the notion of the reserved courtroom defender. On television, the law wears a cape and cases end with a catchy jingle.

"I'm an attorney with a personality. Sue me," said Glen Lerner.

Lerner may be the most recognizable attorney in town, but he has hardly cornered the market on kitsch. New rules adopted by the Nevada State Bar Association two years ago allow attorneys to explore their inner panda bear, as long as they deliver accurate information.

"The bar has decided it's going to get out of the business of policing good taste in ads and really focus more on whether the ads are false, fraudulent or misleading," said UNLV law professor Jeff Stempel.

Once a month a committee of volunteer attorneys review the latest advertisements. Most print and broadcast ads must be filed within 15 days of their debut.

The latest from Lerner gives the panel pause.

"Why would you use the term half a lawyer when we know there's an entire law firm that that's their ad campaign," asked a committee member.

So it, like roughly a quarter of the ads submitted, will get further scrutiny from the bar's legal counsel. Half again of those result in a letter seeking change.

"I think it's more important that the bar focus on ads that are in some way detrimental to the consumer as opposed to just the culture level of town generally," said Stempel.

Or of downtown generally. The sexy inmate outside of the county courthouse teeters as targeted marketing for Vegas Ticket Masters.

Attorney Scott Holper explains, despite a number of complaints, his fishnet stocking strategy follows the rules.

"My focus is about the girls getting the attention, drawing the attention towards my billboard and I understand there's going to be negative publicity. In this market, even negative publicity is good publicity," he said.

Especially in a crowded marketplace. With the Heavy Hitter spending six figures or more a month on his message, keeping up with the competition depends in part on compliance, but more so on a memorable concept.

"I've created a brand. You try to get as much frequency as you can," said Lerner.

According to one market researcher, Las Vegas is among the most competitive attorney ad markets in the country and it has some of the nation's biggest spenders.


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